Diabetes is a serious health condition that develops when the body has trouble regulating blood sugar (glucose) levels. The condition is common — nearly 27% of seniors (14.3 million) Americans aged 65 and older have diabetes. This chronic condition can lead to health complications if not well managed, such as cardiovascular disease, hearing loss, eye problems, and kidney disease.
The good news is that type 2 diabetes is a manageable condition for older adults. Whether you’re newly diagnosed or have been living with diabetes for a while, there are lifestyle changes you can make to manage the condition and prevent diabetes-related health problems.
Exercise is an important part of managing diabetes. Try exercising 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. If you’re short on time, you can split the exercise up into 10 minutes of activity 3 times a day. Aerobic and cardiovascular exercises such as bicycling, swimming and walking can help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your heart healthy. Weight training and yoga help build muscle and keep your bones strong. All exercise can help you control your blood sugar levels to keep you healthy.
Eat a Healthy Diet
The foods you eat impact your glucose levels, so it’s important to know what foods to eat (and what to avoid), how much to eat, and when. Be sure to eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, fiber, and lean protein. Avoid eating processed foods and foods high in added sugars. Eating a balanced diet can also help you maintain a healthy weight along with helping you stay within healthy glucose levels.
Stress levels can have a negative impact on blood sugar levels. When you’re stressed, your body’s fight-or-flight response is activated, and in people with diabetes, this can cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Practicing stress-reducing techniques such as yoga, breathwork, and meditation can help you manage stress and keep your glucose levels balanced.
Take all of your medication exactly as prescribed, even when you’re feeling good. Taking your diabetes medicine helps keep your blood sugar levels as close to the ‘normal’ range as possible. If your blood sugar soars too high or sinks too low, this can lead to diabetes-related health problems, such as damaged nerves and blood vessels. Talk to your doctor if your medications are causing unwanted side effects, or if you’re having trouble keeping track of your medication schedule.
Monitor Your Blood Sugar
Monitoring your blood sugar is an essential part of diabetes care. Your doctor will tell you how to check your blood sugar levels, and how often. Seniors with diabetes are at a higher risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) when taking diabetes medications, which is why it’s so important to check your levels regularly so you can administer insulin when needed.
Examine Your Feet
Nerve damage and poor blood flow are common in diabetes, which puts you at risk of developing a foot ulcer that may get infected. Check your feet every day to check for cuts, blisters, calluses, sores, and signs of infection. If you’re having trouble seeing your feet, use a mirror or ask a family member for help. Aim to keep your feet clean, use lotion to keep them well-hydrated, and wear comfortable shoes that will not cause chafing or blisters. If you notice any cuts, red patches or signs of infection, call your doctor immediately.
Older adults with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing diabetes-related health complications. The good news is, diabetes is a manageable condition and many people with the condition live happy, fully lives. Making healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating well, getting regular exercise, and reducing stress can all help you stay healthy and feel good. Talk with your doctor if you need help checking your glucose levels or administering your medications.